Fitness-to-practise inquiries for nurses, midwives in public

Four nurses and one midwife struck off in 2013 following 13 inquiries

The first public fitness-to-practise inquiry for nurses or midwives is  expected to be held in May or June of this year.

The first public fitness-to-practise inquiry for nurses or midwives is expected to be held in May or June of this year.


Fitness-to-practise inquiries into complaints about nurses and midwives are to be held in public from later this year, An Bord Altranais has said.

It is expected the first public hearing will be held in May or June at the offices of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland in Blackrock, Dublin.

The Nurses and Midwives Act was passed in 2011 but sections dealing with how complaints against nurses and midwives are handled, including public hearings, were not commenced by Minister for Health James Reilly until October 2nd, 2012.

All complaints received about nurses and midwives after October 2012 are being dealt with under the new Act, and any received before the commencement date are being dealt with under the old legislation, which requires inquiries to be held in private.

Complaints under the new legislation are initially considered by the preliminary proceedings committee in private, in a process similar to that operated by the Medical Council when dealing with complaints against doctors.

The nurses’ preliminary committee held its first meeting to consider complaints last September. Under the old legislation, complaints could only be considered on two grounds: alleged professional misconduct or alleged unfitness to engage in practice due to physical or mental disability.

But the new legislation has nine grounds of complaint, including professional misconduct, poor professional performance, non-compliance with a code of professional conduct, a relevant medical disability or an irregularity in relation to the custody, prescription or supply of a controlled drug.

Once the preliminary committee finds there is sufficient evidence in a case to hold a fitness-to-practise inquiry, details of it will be passed on to an inquiry team. Though the inquiry that follows will normally be heard in public, under certain circumstances, it can be held in private or partly in private if the committee is satisfied “it would be appropriate in the circumstances”.

A nursing board spokeswoman said it was not possible to know how many inquiries would be held this year under the 2011 legislation.

“But based on experience under the Nurses Act, 1985, approximately 40 to 60 per cent of complaints received each year progress to an inquiry,” she said. She did not specify the number of complaints received so far under the new legislation.

In 2013, the results of 13 fitness-to-practise inquiries were confirmed by the High Court; four nurses and one midwife were struck off, seven were censured and one had conditions attached to her registration, according to the board’s website.

In 2012, the results of 17 fitness-to-practise hearings were confirmed by the High Court resulting in eight practitioners being struck off, seven having conditions attached to his or her practice and one practitioner being censured.